India’s largest operator Bharti Airtel announced today it will acquire spectrum in six regions from smaller rival Videocon Telecom for INR44.28 billion ($659 million).
The agreement, which is valid to 18 December 2032, covers 10MHz of 1.8GHz frequencies in Bihar, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh (East), Uttar Pradesh (West) and Gujarat, the Economic Times said.
The spectrum purchase is intended to boost Airtel’s holdings as it expands its 4G footprint ahead of Reliance Jio’s nationwide 4g launch 4G.
The transaction is subject to the standard regulatory approvals, including confirmation from the Department of Telecom, Bharti said.
The announcement comes just a day after Idea Cellular and Videocon agreed to terminate a spectrum trading agreement that would have seen the number three operator buy spectrum in the same band in two regions from the smaller player for INR33.1 billion. That trading deal, signed in November, covered spectrum in Uttar Pradesh (West) and Gujarat.
Videocon, an operator with less than a 1 per cent market share, had held talks with a number of operators, including Airtel, Telenor India and Vodafone India, to sell spectrum in order to raise funds.
Last week India’s state-run BSNL reportedly was discussing sharing spectrum with Airtel in four regions – Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh (West), Bihar and Assam – by June. The deal, which crosses over with the Airtel-Videocon agreement in two service regions, is unlikely to go ahead in its current form.
BSNL is the country’s fifth largest operator with 82 million mobile connections.
Airtel in late January reportedly was close to finalising a deal to buy 4G spectrum from smaller rival Aircel for about INR38 billion ($357 million). The agreement to buy Aircel’s 2.3GHz spectrum in eight service areas, where Airtel doesn’t currently own airwaves in that band, would expand its 4G spectrum holdings from 15 to 18 regions.